cystal ball

Let me look into my crystal ball…

One of the things I hate doing the most is offering predictions. That’s because I’m often completely wrong about what’s going to happen. For example, I thought that Romney would either win by a thin margin or lose by a landslide. I didn’t predict at all the razor thin margin that Obama won by in November. That said, since I’ve been asked for my predictions on 2013 and SEO, here they are:

Social Media Will Get More Important

I have another piece I wrote recently about how social signals are not enough if you want to rank well in Google and that is very true. That having been said, I believe that social media will become much more important as time goes on.
The fact is that social media, love it or hate it is here to stay and nothing anyone can do is going to change it. People ask each other for suggestions all the time and the loners out there who don’t interact are going to be left out in the cold.
That having been said, I believe that Facebook will become ever less important in the world of social media. There are any number of up and coming challengers to the dominant network, including Google + and Twitter. Plus, I have seen other platforms showing up more recently, from Pinterest to Zeen (okay, not really a social network but a pseudo social network.
Even Disqus is becoming very important in the world of social media (though I do find it tends to encourage an awful lot of mud slinging and not a whole lot of rational talk. Then again, that is a big part of social media).
I also firmly believe that there is room for still more social media online. I’m not really sure exactly what the next big thing in the world of social media is going to be (and I refuse to try to predict it either) but I believe that we have not seen the end of innovation in this realm.
Twitter and Pinterest were two brand new efforts to redefine the social media realm after Facebook became popular and even Facebook was an effort to create something new on top of the popularity of MySpace.
I believe that 2013 may well give rise to yet another social network that most of us have never heard of or which perhaps has not even been created yet. Watch for some new concept to show up and get wildly popular in a short time (and again, I don’t know what it will be but I believe it will happen).

Junk Content and Links Will Continue to Disappear

This is another fairly obvious thing that we should all be aware of – the cheap, junky content that so many of us have been purchasing for next to nothing is going to continue to become useless. I know that there are a great many people still pushing various kinds of spinning programs but I have yet to find one that actually works like a human being does.
Mind you, I get the appeal of cheap content – we all need to fill our websites on a regular basis and having a real writer write real content is very expensive. However, for all the advances in artificial intelligence, I believe that content written by real human beings will become ever more important in 2013 and not less important.
I recently hired a guy on Warrior Forum to post content to my personal finance blog. I fired him after a few weeks and went back to doing it myself. The guy was posting remarkably poor looking spun junk that he found on the web. Yes, he was super cheap but that’s what you get when you want to pay super cheap prices (and yes, I know it’s ironic that a writer is hiring someone to write for him).
Google’s servers may not be able to churn out content which reads well and looks good but one thing they definitely are capable of doing is actually figuring out whether the content you created is pure junk or not. They can and will continue to weed out all the cheap, junky content that you think you were so clever to buy and they will punish websites which don’t cooperate.
Similarly, the cheap junky links that you buy on Fiverr and other places are going to become increasingly worthless as time goes on. I predict that many of us will actually end up spending a significant amount of time using the Google disavow tool in order to remove some of the most egregious links which we may well have created ourselves.
In short, 2013 will be the year the Internet strikes back and good content which is well written along with quality links are the things that people actually look for.

Google Itself Will Be Less Important

Now here’s a bit of irony for you: as much as Google is turning the screws on SEO people, I believe that it will also make itself that much less relevant to SEO people. The amount of competition for trying to make it to the top of the search engine rankings is quite fierce as I’m sure everyone knows. I regularly see offers from SEO companies where they promise to get you to the top of the rankings or work for free.
However, I am also seeing some very smart people in the world of SEO take a step back and completely change the whole paradigm for how they measure success. Instead of an artificial ranking where they say they will get you to the very top of the SERPs, many SEO people are now offering set increases in quality traffic.
I believe this trend is going to accelerate in 2013 as Google continues to wreak havoc on the world of SEO. We’re going to see more and more efforts by the search engine giant to stop people from gaming the system and this will mean in turn that Google will become less and less important for generating traffic.
Instead, I believe that we will see an increase in alternative methods of traffic generation. I wrote a while back in another prediction post that in the future, we’re going to see a lot of people who used to be “SEO” experts becoming something else entirely – traffic generation experts.
This can only continue to become the reality because there really are a great many other ways to generate traffic other than by using Google. And no, I’m not talking just about creating viral videos on YouTube or creating a viral campaign on Facebook. I mean that there will be all kinds of different changes wrought where ideas we may not have even thought of will be used for traffic generation, leaving Google in the dust.
Mind you, I don’t expect that Google will become completely and utterly irrelevant. I expect that Google will remain the dominant search engine for some time. However, people are increasingly not looking to the search engines to find the information they need. Instead, people are using alternative sources and those sources are going to become increasingly important as time goes on.

Authorship Will Become Increasingly ImportantGoogle authorship

I know – I just got through telling you that Google will become less important in the world of SEO in 2013 and that is true. More people will be looking for alternative methods of traffic generation than ever before. That said, while Google will be less important it doesn’t mean it won’t still be pretty important (i.e. instead of being 90% important, it may become 80% important this year).
One of the things that will keep Google relevant and that will become a big trend this year is the authorship program that Google created. Readers may have heard passing reference to this. I have also seen a handful of WordPress plugins which can handle this. In essence, the authorship program allows you to claim authorship of specific content.
The idea behind it is simple – you can now find out which sites have the writers you like the best and you can vote those writers up while ignoring everyone else. This in theory would allow more people to find the kind of content they really want to read as opposed to the junky content which still clogs much of the web (though again, that is becoming less and less prevalent).
I predict that 2013 is going to be the year of Google authorship because people will become more and more interested in using it as a way to boost their traffic to their websites.
Getting in on authorship by the way is pretty simple – you need a Google + account with a decent, business like image and then you can either manually set up your content for authorship or use a WordPress plugin (if you use WordPress, which I highly recommend) to make every one of your posts follow your authorship. Of course, if you write junk then you may not want to try that idea…

Another Major Update from the Google godsThe Google gods

Finally, I believe that we will see another shakeup from Google this year. It’s not all that hard to predict – they seem to be coming out with new major algorithm updates every single year and so I believe that we’ll see another one this year. Of course, predicting what that major update will be is a lot trickier, but here is my best guess:
I’m guessing that Google is going to look for a way to crack down on fake social signals. Given that we’ve all been taught over the past year or two how important social signals are, I think the Google gods will be trying to find some way to discount the links we create automatically.
To protect yourself from potential Google wrath, I suggest that if you use automated programs you ensure that you use spintax and that you test to make sure that every comment you make using the spintax will actually sound okay once it appears. I also highly recommend that you use a proxy service to make sure that there is no footprint from a single IP address to tell Google that your social signals are artificial.

Bottom Line

Here is one thing that we can all be sure of: Just as it has every single year since the very first websites were created in the mid 1990s, the Internet will change and will throw us some curve balls. We’ll be surprised by some and we’ll know to expect others. Probably half of the predictions I and everyone have made will prove to be wrong and the other half will be right.
In other words, if you want to know what to expect in the SEO world in 2013, expect the unexpected and you’ll never be surprised.